The Sunday News
DUE to the high cost of beef, chicken has emerged as a growing alternative source of protein for most people.
This has given a boost in the poultry production figures with a number of smallholder producers capitalising on the spike in demand for chicken by the consumers.
Other than the cost of feed which is prohibitive to most poultry producers, the other challenge they have to contend with is the mortality rate in chicks which leads to losses.
Chick mortality is a real challenge especially for upcoming producers hence this week, I will look at causes of high chick mortality in broiler production.
It should be noted that it is not easy to completely eradicate chick mortality, however, the acceptable percentage of chick mortality is up to five percent beyond which the enterprise begins to incur a loss.
Causes of chick mortality can be broadly classified into three categories, namely hatchery defects, diseases and poor husbandry practices.
Hatcheries should deliver a good quality chick which is alert, active, well hydrated, free of diseases and deformities.
Some chicks die within the first two weeks of their life due to deformities.
Obvious cases of a possible early mortality in chicks are detected by inspecting the belly side of the chicks. If there are black dots around the navel area of the chick or if there is a large yolk sac that indicates a potential problem.
An inappropriately absorbed yolk and unhealed navel often leads to a fatal disease as a result of the invasion of the navel and yolk sac by bacteria.
These are a result of hatcheries letting deformed products into the market because such chicks are supposed to be screened out of batches before going to the market.
With regards to diseases there are three common ones that result in most recorded chick mortalities.
These are pullorum, salmonellosis and colibacillosis. Pullorum usually results in white diarrhoea, ruffled feathers, breathing difficulties, chirping and high death rate.
Morbidity and mortality for pullorum cases are high between the 6th and 11th day after placement. The feathers around the vent in many chickens is stained with diarrhoeic faeces or pasted with dry faeces and there is generally a depressed growth rate of the chicks.
Colibacillosis is a respiratory disease among young birds, especially those with a depressed immunity. Major signs are coughing, sneezing and snick with a resultant loss in appetite and poor growth rate. Salmonellosis is caused by a number of salmonella bacteria. It results in diarrhoea, vent pasting, loss of appetite, ruffled feathers, crowding close to heat sources, sitting with drooping wings and closed eyes.
Poor management also contributes to chick mortalities, especially if no proper attention is given to critical factors such as temperature control, ventilation and humidity of the brooding place.
Both too high and too low temperatures can cause chick mortality. Too high temperatures within the fowl run will cause chicks to dehydrate and there can be blockage of the vent due to droppings pasting on the vent.
On the other hand, when temperatures slump lower than desired the chicks suffer from pneumonia and mortalities occur by chilling.
When cold, the young birds tend to stop feeding, huddle together and in most cases more chicks die of smothering than from the low temperatures.
The recommended optimal temperature is anything around 30-31 degree celcius. Another important factor is ventilation of the brooding place or fowl run.
If the fowl run is open to draughts it causes temperature drops with the results explained above. However, poor ventilated fowl run results in build up of gases such as ammonia, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.
These are noxious gases especially ammonia and can result in chick mortalities. Ammonia gas effects are noticed as irritation on the eyes of the chicks.
Ammonia gas comes from droppings of the chicks while carbon monoxide is usually a problem in fowl runs that use firewood or charcoal as a source of heat.
Another important aspect regarding managing chick mortality is to adopt strong biosecurity protocols. Limit the number of people that go into the fowl to run and hand chicks.
The people must also observe high levels of hygiene and cleanliness so as to prevent importation of disease causing organisms into the fowl run.
Feedback [email protected]/cell 0772851275.